Thursday, December 31, 2015

Washed out

Either I'm getting soft in my old age or I'm seeing sense. Whichever it is I try not to fish in the rain - unless I have 'that feeling'. The plan for Christmas Day was to go roach fishing in the afternoon and into dark. The weather forecast scuppered that idea by forecasting rain to arrive around eleven and set in for the night and Boxing Day. As my pike gear was still in a reasonably organised state I decided to rise early and have a few hours piking in the morning, then head home to get more work done.

The rising early bit didn't prove a hardship, and I was quite confident. Not confident enough to pack the stove and bacon though. The baits were in position at seven thirty with daylight round the corner. Then the drizzle started and faded away. If it would stay dry I'd have a move around nine, action or no action.

A mate turned up as it was coming light and settled into the next swim to me. It made a change to have someone to talk to, but I was still determined to move at nine. Then the rain returned, lingered, and got heavier. Stuff moving in that.

We had both had enough of the rain and were thinking of heading for home at eleven when I had a dropped run. Despite an emptying flask and no food it might be worth another half hour. Even though it was mild, warm even, the rain got to me and by eleven fifteen I was packing up.

When I got home the rain had stopped. I contemplated a return after that bacon I'd thought of frying on the bank. The blasted rain had other plans and returned with a vengeance. The results of that in the locality on Boxing Day made the national news.


My next Big Idea was to finish the year off with an afternoon session. Roach fishing was out of the question with all the swims on the lake being under water, so piking it would be. Then the weather put paid to that one by being gorgeous in the morning and soaking in the afternoon. Maybe I should switch to morning sessions?

And so another year turns. It's been a funny one has 2015. I mean, I deliberately fished for c*rp. I think that catching c*rp by design is one of the few challenges I have left. I've never been much good at catching the flabby things for some reason. Stick a tench, bream or barbel rod out and the stupid creatures almost queue up to be caught. I've even caught them on deadbaits. But as soon as I let them know I'm on their trail they bugger off!

The tench fishing was another oddity. I fished a new water with tactics I wouldn't ordinarily use and struggled. That said on the one day I fished properly I caught more tench than in the previous two seasons - and to a slightly higher weight! That's something to have another crack at next spring. My roach fishing never got going, either late last winter or this winter. The eels played their usual tricks and avoided me. Although I have to confess to not trying as hard as I should have done. Those pesky c*rp sidetracked me.

Roll on spring!
Next year I expect to be a repeat of this. Pike and roach until May when I'll kick off the tench fishing until they spawn. Then it'll be either c*rp or eels until pike/roach time comes round again. I keep on forgetting about the dace I've been meaning to fish for, and the perch I fancy a rematch with. Then there are the Railway Pond gudgeon!!

These days my fishing is all about catching locally, within half an hour's drive of home, and usually sessions that don't last more than a few hours (overnighters excepted). It gives me local PBs to aim for that might be well short of the biggest fish I've caught but which provide a challenge to keep my enthusiasm going. So long as I enjoy my fishing I'll be happy enough. When I don't enjoy it I'll go home. Like I did on Christmas Day!
  • Pike - 19-07
  • C*rp - 17-04
  • Tench - 5-12
  • Bream - 5-08
  • Eel - 2-08

Monday, December 14, 2015

The hat excels

Although a lot of pike anglers bemoan mild winters I have to say I like them! I've never held to the notion that pike fishing improves after the first frosts and that a cold snap is required to get them feeding. Maybe that's because I did a lot of pike fishing in the spring in summer when I started taking it seriously and noticed a decline in my catches once winter arrived only taking an up-turn as they congregate for spawning.

Having sweated more than expected on my walk to and from the Post Office this morning I got that irresistible urge to get the pike rods out. After a quick lunch the rods were soon in the back of the car and some baits sorted out, rucksack added and off I went.

For once I didn't have much of a plan. Once parked up I had a wander and decided to try a swim I'd never put a pike bait in in anger. There are still a few forlorn looking lily pads hanging around so one bait was dropped next to some of those, another went to a nearby feature on the other side of the swim and the third got blasted out as far as I could get it. The bait went a bit further actually as it came off the hooks. I wound in, hooked on a tougher bait and put it where I wanted it. Then I sat down to make a couple of spare traces as one I was using was getting a bit curly. With that job done I was contemplating cracking open the flask when there was a bleep in my top pocket. I'd only been there twenty minutes and the lamprey head by the pads was falteringly on the move.

As soon as I connected with the pike it pulled back hard then did a dolphin impersonation, launching itself out of the water. I was expecting an epic battle but that was it. Yet another wet sack of a pike slid over the net. Where it immediately went berserk! It might be warm but these pike are neither wolfing baits down nor fighting like tigers. All rather odd. Broad across the back and slightly skinny it weighed the same as the last pike I caught. I'm pretty sure it was a different fish though.

Manic
Those traces I'd made came in handy because the pike had trashed one. I swapped traces, put on a fresh bait, recast and had that cup of tea I'd been going to pour. Then I reused the trebles from the kinky trace to make another replacement.

There was a light breeze that wasn't enough to cause a wind chill. I was glad that I'd left the bunny suit at home and just put on a bib and brace to keep me clean and dry as I had to remove the woolly hat after the hectic few minutes the fish caused. For some reason all the mallards were skulking under the trailing bankside branches with their heads tucked under their wings. A lone grebe was working the water in front of me, a few roach topped. It seemed like there were prey fish in the vicinity. Maybe there'd be a few more pike around too.

After another hour it was decision time. Stay where i was or have a move for the last hour or so. The swim opposite looked inviting. I went for it but wasn't convinced. Leaving my gear in the second swim I had a wander to see if anywhere else appealed. It didn't really. Seeing something swirl in front of where my gear was sealed the deal. Three rods were cast out, the net assembled and before I could sit down the small herring had been picked up. It seemed that I'd made the right decision.

It was like deja vu. The strike met the solid resistance of another wet sack. When I got a glimpse of the fish it looked about seven pounds. As it slid over the net cord it seemed to double in size. Sure enough it proved to be my heaviest fish of the winter so far. It was slightly chunkier fish too, which was encouraging.

Placid
The little herring had got well and truly mangled as I pulled it from the treble so I could see what I was doing to dislodge it from the scissors. I had no more little herrings so I put the tail of a larger one on and lobbed it back in the same spot.

I'd checked the weather forecast before setting out and it had predicted rain after dark. Not only was the bunny suit at home so was the brolly. When the rain, thankfully light, arrived earlier than expected I put my jacket on and hoped for the best. It proved to be little more than drizzle which meant the rucksack and quiver weren't going to get soaked. The wind had dropped as the rain arrived and the light was fading.

The only other angler on the water stopped for a chat on his way back to the car park just as it was getting difficult to see my farthest float and it was he who noticed the margin float dip. As I looked at it the float sped up and disappeared. A positive take rather than tentative ones I was getting accustomed to.  This time my strike was met with slightly more tenacious resistance. But not much more. Looking in the net by the light of my head torch this pike had length behind its big head. It felt heavy too as I lifted it ashore. That previous fish hadn't remained my heaviest of the winter for long. I handed my camera to the other guy and a couple of quick snaps were taken.

Caught mid-blink!
With the pike returned farewells were bade and I set about packing up. Not a bad three hours fishing. Proving once more that some things I never put much store in in the past really can pay off: fishing in the afternoon, moving swims and hanging on until it's too dark to see a float. If only I could get this approach to work on other waters with bigger pike!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The hat fails

It's that pre-Christmas period when work needs to be got out of the way. Hence a lack of time to wet a line. Thursday afternoon was clear and the weather dry and mild out of the wind. I thought I'd try somewhere closer to home than usual. The canal. Three rods and work my way back to the car for the last two and a half hours of daylight. I must have been mad. It didn't take long for the first dog to appear, barking it's head off while it's owner feebly tried to call it under control. The second one was on the hunt for food in my deadbait bag. Then there was the herd of retired cagoulibeest that swept far from majestically along the towpath. What they needed maps and ski-sticks for I have no idea. Perhaps the sticks were in case they couldn't read the maps and wandered up a mountain by mistake.


I've never had much success with deadbaits on the bottom of the canal - although others do. Which is why I made sure one was paternostered. It did me no good. Pretty much as I expected. Maybe the way to fish deads is to sit it out in one swim all day. I'll not be doing that in a hurry. Not unless I find a portable electric fence to keep the dogs away.

Despite the new hat there was a lack of pike. Pretty much what I'd expected if I'm honest. It was still a nice enough afternoon to be out, brightened by the sight of a kingfisher whizzing along the far bank reeds. I've met people who have walked along the canal for years without seeing that flash of brilliant blue, yet I have seen plenty when I've been fishing. I guess staying in one place gives you the chance for you to notice them as they fly by, while being on the move you probably spook any that are perching and they fly away from you. In my teenage years when I mostly fished for bits on the cut I had kingfishers land on my Fibatube float rod as it sat in the rests.

 Back in the real world I got a set of Ballistas finished off. Two were complete strip and start again jobs, the third a new build to match. Cork handles with stainless trimmings were the order of the day and Kigan rings whipped in an unobtrusive colour. The request had been for grey to match the matted blanks, but I've yet to find a (supposedly) grey thread that comes close. They all end up looking darker or lighter than the blank. I therefore suggested a colour I'd found which, although more a pale olive, had a similar tone to the grey of the carbon. It turned out rather pleasingly to my eyes. And more importantly to the eyes of my customer.

More unusual builds are on the go at the moment. There's a six foot stalking rod, complete with isotope at the tip, to match one I built back in 2008, and a two piece rod in similar vein. Baitblasters with K-series guides, X-1s with woven reel seats, and a green Duellist are also on the to-do list. That should keep me from fishing much before Santa arrives.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The hat works

I forgot to mention last time that I had worn my new hat and didn't blank. Always a relief. Since that damp session it seems to have hardly stopped raining. So when today started off dry and there was no suggestion of precipitation I thought I might sneak out for the last few hours of daylight. When I got distracted talking to anglers on the canal taking the scenic route back from the Post Office I was running late. I almost decided to stay home, but the day, despite being windy, was too good to let pass without wetting a line.If I could get the baits out by two I'd be in with a chance.

Finding the car park deserted was a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one. A short walk and I did indeed have three baits out and the first cup of tea poured by two o'clock. The sun was shining sporadically as the strong wind blew clouds over. Once more it was warm enough to leave the bunny suit at home and not wish I hadn't. It took only half an hour for a pike to pick up the margin fished smelt.

Hat from Hats by Lou
The float had gone and the line was streaming through the water. Some fool must have forgotten to engage the anti-reverse because the reel handle was spinning too! Any loops of line that might have tangled round the reel were avoided as I picked the rod up and wound into the fish. Once more it was fish that didn't do much other than wriggle as I drew it over the net.

Once more that was where it woke up and managed to thrash the flying treble into the leg of my bib and brace. Great. I managed to rip the treble out of the cloth to free myself from the landing net and pike and start getting the other hook out of the fish. It looked like it might scrape double figures, but I doubted it would as it was another skinny fish. Not quite, but another fish to the new hat. The trace was trashed after all that messing about so I set about reusing the trebles on a fresh bit of wire.


The wind wasn't cold, but it was annoying even though the water was calm in front of me. I was in two minds about a move. I had thought of trying a swim I'd yet to catch from that looks the part. At three fifteen I tidied the gear and set off. As I passed one swim it felt the proverbial overcoat warmer. It was lovely and calm. However that was another swim I've yet to catch from, in an area I've never had a run from. I stuck with plan A. I knew the wind would be barrelling in to that swim, but I would be able to shelter behind some bushes and still keep an eye on the floats.

The rods were back out by half three and I sat back to drink another cup of tea and photograph some oddly green toadstools I'd placed my chair besides. The brew hadn't been finished when the right hand margin rod was away. The float wasn't steaming off this time, just slowly waddling away. When I connected with the pike it felt heavier than the first fish. Hugging bottom it did that gill flaring head shaking thing as it came up in the water that always makes me think the hooks are going to come free. It also makes the pike look to have a bigger head than it really has. Both these factors get the adrenaline going.

However the resistance was yet again just head shaking and the fish slid over the net in no time at all. Despite the warm weather the pike don't seem to be wolfing the baits down and there was a free flying treble. They also don't seem to be packing weight on because this was another pike that could have weighed more. My guesstimate was close to what the scales told me.


Strong winds tend to keep birdlife out of sight. There were a few mallards and a couple of tufties on the lake. A grebe had dived down as I'd approached the first swim. Other than that all I saw was a kestrel being buffeted as it hovered and a pheasant blown at high speed across the sky as dusk approached.

I thought there might be an outside chance of a second fish from the same spot. That was all that kept me from packing up and heading home for an early tea. By four fifteen that hope was fading and I was gone by half past with still a bit of light left.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wet

Feeling perkier than yesterday's relapse into the world of phlegm and endless coughing I decided to have another short pike session this afternoon, despite the promise of rain. The method in my madness was to see how the repair I'd made to one of my brollies would fare. Not long after the warranty ran out one of the seams pulled apart near the boss resulting in drips. Mostly I used another brolly because of this, despite this one having fibreglass ribs and weighing less.

One one of the forums I use someone I know in the real world mentioned they had used spinnaker tape to repair a tear they'd made in some waterproof clothing. I Googled the stuff and ordered some from Amazon. It's not cheap stuff, but it's intended for repairing sails on yachts. It's certainly sticky, and surprisingly thin. I put a piece on either side of the brolly a good few weeks ago. This was its first outing. Unlike the repair attempt I'd made previously using gaffer tape this one hadn't come unstuck. It's early days but it looks hopeful. If it does last there'll be a few patches on my bivvy next spring!


Arriving in the dry at half past one I dropped the herring tail saved from the previous session in the margin, the lamprey head got chucked out a fair way and a fresh smelt lobbed out mid way. The sky was overcast but bright, the wind light. Even so the rain didn't take long to turn up. And with it came a stronger, and slightly chilly, wind. A sparrowhawk made an appearance, probably in search of the numerous fieldfares which had been perching watchfully high on the hawthorns.

I had almost finished my second cup of flask tea when the sounder in my pocket began to burble. The herring float was dipping under the surface and the rod top pulling over as I drained the last of the tea and grabbed the net. The fish was taking line steadily as I picked the rod up and turned the reel handle. This wasn't a jack, but it wasn't a monster either.

Despite a complete lack of any desire to swim away from me there was enough weight to the fish to keep the rod bent. Once in the net the bloody thing woke up. It was lively on the bank too making what should have been a simple unhooking job take a bit longer. The scales proved my guestimate to be correct. A shade over ten pounds of skinny pike.

Although the herring tail had been hanging out the side of the pike's mouth as I wound it in it remained attached to the hooks so I was able to salvage it, tie it to the trace and swing it back out.

The rain set in for the duration, but the wind eased off. It wasn't particularly heavy rain, and at least the day was quite mild making things less dreary than they might have been. I moved the baits about now and then in the hope that I might provoke some interest. It was not to be. The sky had darkened bringing dusk earlier than the other day. The opportunistic session came to an early end at four fifteen. With more rain forecast for the next few days it was nice to get a fish under my belt before it arrived to deter me. With a bit of luck I'll be up for more piking when the wet weather goes away.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pike therapy

Today I made the effort to get my arse into gear and go fishing. I even planned to have my main meal ready at lunchtime so all I'd have to do when I got back was make a snack. Despite my meticulous preparations I managed to forget my new woolly hat. I'd removed my old one from the rucksack, but not replaced it with the new one. Thankfully although there was some north in the breeze the day was reasonably mild and my tatty baseball cap kept my head warm enough.

Thinking about it leaving the new hat behind might have been a good move as I was giving a new pair of boots their first fishing outing. Two new items on one session would have been a sure fire blank inducer!

Were there a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Boots I'd be banned from keeping them for life. I never look after my footwear. I don't willingly abuse them or anything, I just neglect them. Not only do I wear my boots for fishing, I put them on to tramp around with my camera. Salt water when I wear them to paddle about at the beach when I'm out with my camera probably does them no favours. As a consequence the leather always ends up cracking and letting in water long before I have worn the soles out.

Last winter I just about managed to keep my feet dry, but a few dew laden mornings this summer saw my socks getting damp. It was time to stump up for new boots. I could wear my Muckboots, but I prefer an eight inch leather boot. Mostly because I can't drive in wellies and am too lazy to swap from my 'day boots' to wellies when I get to where I'm fishing and swap back to go home. Boots one as I set off and straight out of the car to the swim. Old habits of fishing popular waters and having to beat the hordes die hard. Time will tell how long this pair last. If I get three winters out of them it'll be par for the course.

I wasn't sure how a clean Fred would affect my luck either, after he'd had a bath (i.e. spin in the washing machine and tumble drier...) a couple of weeks ago. As it turned out none of this voodoo resulted in a blank. Although one small jack that took a liking to a headless joey mackerel wasn't what I'd have scripted it was better than catching nothing. As soon as the float wobbled it was obvious a small fish was playing with the bait. The float hardly moved and just a few ticks at a time were made by the baitrunner.

Once more there wasn't much to see in the way of birdlife. A small flock of goldfinches twittered as they fed in an alder. A sparrowhawk made a close flyby, agitating a blackbird as it reached the other side of the lake. An indecisive flock of fieldfares flew over heading west, turned and flew off and out of sight in a north easterly direction.

After an hour and a half I moved to a spot where I could cover more water. One bait in close, one to another feature and one out into more open water. Nothing happened apart from a reed stem catching one of the lines and making the remote bleep in my pocket. With half an hour of light left I repositioned all three baits to places they remained until I packed up in the dark.

Not the most successful of sessions in terms of fish caught, but one which renewed my enthusiasm and cleared my still snuffly sinuses a little. One thing that the session reminded me was that I need to restock the freezer. There's not a lot of choice in it at the moment. Not that I'm sure the pike in this place are too fussy. It's just nice to have a selection of bait sizes if nothing else.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cold

Not long after my last post I called in at my local tackle shop for some reason. Either to drop off a repair or gather some tubes for despatching rods. Anyway, 'someone' was diseased and unable to speak above a whisper. A couple of days later my nose started dripping. Then the sneezing started. Sleep was interrupted at frequent intervals by snot collecting at the back of my throat making me wake up choking. Just when I was feeling better the cough started, accompanied by the loss of the will to do anything at all. I thought I was over it but no. The continual hawking up of phlegm commenced and is only now abating. That's why I haven't been fishing for a while. Of course, the weather that was warm and windless has turned wet and windy now.

In between the endless cups of tea, nose blowings and Strepsils I've been getting on with work.  One lovely little job was to re-ring a couple of Loch Tamers belonging to 'a well known pike angler'. The first part of the job was to remove the repairs he'd made. I've seen worse ring replacement jobs in my time.

One thing was for sure, these rings weren't going to fall off! Meaning the highlight of this task was removing the whippings which were braided line liberally soaked with Superglue. A hideous combination to take off.

The other rings cleaned up remarkably well, which meant that altering the spacings didn't leave too much of a mess. Which was a relief.

Now, do I get the pike rods out again, try for the roach or go gudgeon bashing when I get a free (dry) day (or few hours)? I haven't caught a gudgeon for a long, long time and quite fancy swinging a few to hand. Even if it's only to hear them squeak!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Piking again

It's been combination of work and lethargy that's been keeping me away from the water for a while. After my Railway Pond carp campaign came to a quick end I've been struggling to to find an incentive to catch fish.

There was a brief dabble at starting an evening roach campaign. Trouble was the roach didn't want to join in and I gave up after the one session. Forgetting the hemp to put in my feed didn't help my confidence and I really should have fished a spot that's produced before instead of one that has never thrown up a roach for me.


Eventually the cold turkey got too much for me and this afternoon was set fair. No rain, not too cold and not unseasonably hot. As soon as play at the test match finished for the day I was on my way to the Blue Lagoon armed with the pike rods still set up from my last session in March, and the same carrier bag of deadbaits I'd thrown in the freezer back then. There didn't seem to be much point in putting any new baits in as what was there looked good enough for three hours fishing.


Luckily enough the swim I had last fished for pike was free. Not surprising as I couldn't see anyone else fishing! The beauty of braid is that knots don't deteriorate. The traces hadn't rusted over the summer so I hooked a bait on each one and cast them out. Jack herring to the left, a headless joey straight out on a decent chuck and a rather freezer burned lamprey tail in the right hand margin. There wasn't much avian activity. A noisy wren in the reeds was about it until a great crested grebe arrived in it's dull winter plumage matching the grey clouded sky.

I'd kept the weight down in the rucksack by leaving the flask at home and just having a bottle of water as it wasn't cold enough to need a warming brew. The quiver was similarly lightened by leaving the brolly at home. I'm sure it's those two items that weigh me down most.

After half an hour I twitched the distant bait. Fifteen minuets later I recast all three. It was only a matter of a few more minutes until I noticed the right hand rod top knock, the float bob and begin to move under the overhanging hawthorn. The baitrunner was knocked off and I wound into a pike which felt a bit like it might be a decent one, particularly when it pulled the P-5 right over. Fish always feel like they fight harder when they have enough depth to dive straight down under the rod tip rather than having to run away rom you in shallow water.

Once in the net I wasn't so sure about the size of the fish. In the sling it looked on the skinny side, managing to spin the needle round past the nine pound mark but not much further.

It was almost time for a move, so I did. The two baits which hadn't been taken were still in good enough shape and the herring again went out to my left, close in, the macky hurled as far as I could. Then I got a fresh lamprey head out and dropped that hastily in the right hand margin as something was playing with the mackerel.

By the time I picked the middle rod up the bait had been dropped. I retrieved it to find it a mangled mess. Not too mangled to use though. I found some solid flesh to stick the end treble that had come free in and belted it back out whence it came. With the float cocked and the 'runner set I wound in the lamprey to position it more to my liking. Only I had to swing it back out quickly because the macky was on the move again!

This time I connected with what felt like a small pike, and so it was. As is often the case with small pike it proved to be more trouble in the net than on the end of the line. Despite being lightly hooked the thing had to be untangled, and the trace was a mess that took some straightening out. With everything back to normal I eventually got all three baits positioned where I was happy with them.

After an hour I was contemplating a move. There wasn't much to move to and I thought the light would be gone quickly. As it turned out the light stayed good enough for another hour. I should have made that move because the floats didn't.

There are still leaves clinging to the trees that a good blow will soon shift. The lily pads are well on their way out. A flock of fieldfares flew over towards dusk. The haws on the bushes will be under attack from them soon enough round the lake. Despite it being twelve degrees it's beginning to feel like winter is on its way now. More piking, or get the roach rods back in action? Perhaps I could travel light for pike when the weather is set fair and a brolly won't be needed and go roaching when the forecast is doubtful? Or perhaps lethargy will get the better of me again!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

I fibbed

With the Indian Summer returning after a short break it would have been churlish not to continue my  short session carp campaign in search of a monster from the Railway Pond. As it is almost dark by the time the Archers is over I got myself to the water by four with the air temp still in the teens and the sun shining on the barely rippled water. The spots I really fancied were all either taken or would have resulted in me casting too close to someone else, so I opted for the neglected bank. As I approached one swim I could see a carp was feeding close in. That was good enough for me.

I set up back from the water then dropped a bait where the fish had been creating vortexes. Scattering a few freebies over the spot. I was using some boilies that had been in the bait cupboard since I last barbel fished. They hadn't gone mouldy, were still soft and sweet smelling. They'd catch. The other rod got a pop-up and a bag of matching bottom baits and was lobbed out about ten yards or so.

Although I had a back lead on one line and tungsten tubing on the other I managed to fish with slack lines by resting the bobbins on the platform I had the rods either side of!

The margin bobbin jumped off the deck after a short while, but no run materialised. I pulled more slack from the reel and left things as they were. Then the other bobbin leaped into space and the baitrunner spun a little until the line was just tight. I wasn't sure if that had been an abortive take. No. It was another skinny flappy thing which was soon wound in and released. The pop-up got lowered in the right hand margin after that.

A couple of hawkers hawked along the reedmace while there was still some heat from the sun. When the air chilled the geese began to arrive, making so much noise I could barely hear the radio. I was half way through the last mini pork pie of the day when there was a stuttery take to the bottom bait. This was being fished on a new rod I've been trying to put a bend in for some weeks, the new-gear-jinx being particularly strong on it. Something was bound to go wrong. I remembered I'd forgotten to retie the knot on that rig. Whatever it was that had picked up the bait it sure wasn't a flappy thing! At one point it tried to get in the reedmace to my right but the potentially dodgy knot held as I gave the fish some stick. Then it kited to the left where I steered it away from the reedmace and over the landing net in one smooth sequence. The rod had done the job, and it looked like I'd achieved my target of catching a double from the place in a short session. The scales proved me right.

There was just one strange thing. My knack for catching freakish fish had been at work. The poor thing only had one eye. Whatever had happened to it's left eye had happened a long time ago as there was no sign of any damage. In fact it appeared to have been hatched that way. Most unsettling to look at.

The fish was nopt in teh least bothered by it's lack of an eye. Nor had it been put out by my hustling it into the net. It made a good attempt at soaking me as it shot away from teh weighsling as I slipped it back.

The usual chaos of wet sling, net and rod was sorted out. The bait dropped back in place and more freebies scattered over it. Then the pork pie was finished.

After the commotion I didn't really expect anything more, but I hung on until the Archers was done. The air temp still over 12 by the time I got back to the car. That really is me done with carp for now. The roach rods are rigged up and I have some maggots in the fridge ready for a first session. The plan is to fish a couple of hours into dark for the roach. Knowing my luck the eels will be revelling in this mild weather and I'll be driven home by a succession of rig mangling bootlaces. It might be fun. It might be torment.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

All carped out

It's that transitional time of year, when summer fishing is over but winter fishing doesn't feel quite right. I know I could go piking on the drains, but they don't fire me with enthusiasm. Hitting the river for barbel is another option that doesn't appeal. These last two weeks of late summer days with temperatures as high as we had during high summer have confused matters even more. Yesterday there were a couple of swallows over the water and an early morning chiffchaff was calling, yet five whooper swans dropped in for a swim around and come evening the pink foots were nosily flighting in. No wonder I've been confused. That's my excuse for trying to catch carp.


An evening up to eleven session produced one line bite on the difficult lake. There might be twenty five fish in the place, most of them not worth catching. Even the real carp anglers aren't having any success. I think that's why I've been having a go. The challenge. But I can only stand so many blanks and have been visiting the Railway Pond where the challenge is to avoid the carp. I'm succeeding! The last two hours are the best chance to avoid other anglers too. The first session ended with a screaming run and another of the pond's skinny flappy things. However, I did notice some carp behaviour that I thought might push the odds in my favour next time.


With work out of the way and yet another red hot afternoon under way, Thursday saw me setting off for an overnighter, intending to stop until after lunch. I left it a bit late and only got the baits out by six twenty. Two grains of fake corn over a bed of hemp and corn to the left margin, a spot I've seen fishy activity on a few occasions. A boilie/glow corn cocktail with a stringer out to nowhere and a 14mm pop-up over pellets close in straight over the now-dying weed edge.

My usual regime for bivvy sessions is to restrict them to the months when it goes dark at nine. I can't abide the long dark hours.  Right now it's dark before eight, and although the days have been hot the temperature soon drops with the sun. Six thirty and it's fine out in a t-shirt, by seven thirty it's almost time for the bunny suit!

The moon was just past full but still bright enough to cast long shadows as it rose, directly opposite me. Then the mist rose over the water and hung around all night. By daybreak it had turned into an all-enveloping fog covering the low-lying land all around. It didn't burn off until gone nine in the morning when the heat returned.


The alarms had remained silent all night long. Not a liner or anything. There had been fish topping at dusk and some noisy surface splashing from small fish during the night. No signs of carp, tench or bream though. The only indication I had was at quarter to eight when the cocktail bobbin dropped back a few inches. I waited for it to drop further or to fly up to the butt ring, but it didn't. After the bacon butty breakfast washed down with a mug of black tea (I forgot the milk...) I had a recast of all three rods. It was no wonder the corn hadn't been touched. The rig was tangled. Bugger.

It was tempting to sit it out all day, but by two I'd had enough. The thought of getting a bend in a rod, even from a flappy thing, was itching away in my head. Back home for a brew with milk then trim the gear down and snatch the last couple of hours at the pond, then call at the chippy after I packed up. Simple plan.

I don't know why I decided to band the two rods, landing net and banksticks together instead of using a quiver. I find it an awkward way to carry stuff. But that was what I did. The swim I fancied was vacant, so the rods were soon set up and the sticks in place. Then it was time to set up the landing net. That was odd. I had the net and half of the pole, but not the essential part. The part with the spreader block. I retraced my steps to the car hoping it might just have slipped out. Nope. Not in the car either. I'd have to manage without.

Thankfully, being rubbish at catching carp, the net problem didn't need to be overcome. There were a few liners, and some half-hearted tugs (probably from over ambitious baby carp) to make the alarm bleep. Nothing positive though. I mostly spent the time watching migrant hawkers hawking, hovering and chasing each other until it got too chilly for them. By which time the starlings and geese were flocking in to the safety of the mere and its reedbeds for the night. It's quite a spectacular sight, and sound, when the pinks fly in. There's something about the sight and sound of thousands of pinks that evokes feelings of lonely and wild places.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

It comes but once a year

Last week I actually managed the impossible. With the PAC's annual convention being held in Kettering last Saturday I had all my stuff ready to go by Thursday evening! All except the carrier bags, but I didn't realise that until I was in Northamptonshire...

Such pre-planning meant I could sneak out for a couple of hours catching suicidal carp at the Railways Pond. Naturally enough I didn't catch any. The weather had changed a bit since the previous visit and the pond was busy. A combination of the weather and boots on the ground could have been the cause of my failure. Or I might just have been in the wrong spot - the right one having a goon with a pole in it when I arrived. It was a pleasant enough two hours though. I might even sort out a set of gear to leave ready to snatch similar two hour sessions for the future. Although how the place will fish come winter I dunno.


An early start and a three hour drive saw me arrive at the venue for the PAC show in good time. Before the doors had opened in fact. The place is much better to get in and out of than the Ricoh Arena where the show was last year. And no officious jobsworths to contend either. Far more laid back and friendly.

It was a good day, with the usual suspects turning up, but a long one.All the usual suspects turned up and I grabbed a few photos of some of them.






Six hours driving in total and the rest of the day on my feet takes it out of an old codger. Well meaning plans to get the rods out in anger on Sunday fell by the wayside. I'd surely manage an evening or overnight session later in the week, especially given the weather forecast? Nope. Long awaited rod fittings turning up, plus other deliveries to wait in for, kept me away from the water. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get the roach rods out over the weekend.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A slippery slope

That one more eel session went predictably. Plenty of runs that were dropped or missed until I managed to hook one on a piece of squid cast well out from the bank. It wasn't big enough to get weighed. Par for the course with my eeling luck. What I did find odd was that all the takes were coming to the squid. A perch tail in the margins was ignored completely. When I swapped the squid over to the perch's head, thinking a tougher bait might stand up to the attention of tiny eels better, the takes to that rod dried up. At least I got plenty of sleep after that change of tactics!


For my next trick I thought I'd try an evening up until midnight for carp. Why I've suddenly got it in my head to fish for those stupid, ugly, things I really don't know. Partly it's because I know trying for roach with maggots will see me plagued with bootlace eels at this time of year, partly because it's too early for the pike where I want to fish for them, and also because I can't be arsed driving to the river for barbel. It goes without saying that a couple of liners weren't enough to keep me interested after the dew soaked the grass and I was on my way home by eleven.

A few days later I was itching to get a bend in a rod so I headed back to the Railway Pond in search of carp. It took all of half an hour fishing large, lone hookbaits (in order to avoid the suicidal potential livebaits) for the pop-up to get taken.


Shortly after the other bait was taken by something that gave a short pull on the baitrunner then stopped as I picked the rod up. Whatever it was I'd hooked wasn't doing much. Flappy things tend not to fight too hard in the rivers, this one was no different in still water. A very skinny chub was soon lying in the net. Towards dusk I got my first sight of pink foots flying in to roost. Their call always has a wintry air to it. Which was at odds with the sight of a brown hawker catching midges up around the alder tops.


While there's still plenty of warmth in the sun through the middle of the day it is going cool quickly come evening, and it takes a while to warm up again after sun up. Saturday's early start for the PAC Convention in Kettering was a case in point. I put the heater on in the car for the first time in months to warm my feet up! But I had cold air blowing in for the start of the journey home and even by the time I reached the village chippy I didn't need to put my sweatshirt on. Even so, overnight sessions won't be much of a feature of my fishing for much longer this year. Long cold nights are not my idea of fun. Mind you, if I fish them for carp I'll be guaranteed plenty of sleep...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Stuck

Last week I gave up a short eel session an hour early because nothing was happening apart from a bad moon rising. It felt like a waste of time for some reason. Following that work got in the way as I started to play catch-up after some long awaited rings showed up.


Last night I snapped and found myself in that automatic pilot mode putting the gear together for an overnighter. It just happened. I was on my way as soon as I'd finished my tea. The original idea was to forget about the eels and get a good night's sleep tucked up in my sleeping bag while the rods pretended to fish for carp. But at the last minute I threw the eel rods and deadbait bag in the back of the car.

There wasn't much time to get set up and again the auto-pilot kicked in and the eel rods got cast out. A roach tail down the edge and a head section which, when hooked through the bottom jaw and out the skull, withstands casting better further out. I also used a slightly bigger deadbait than usual. A rod baited with two grains of fake corn got dropped in the edge on the other side of the swim to the margin eel rod. Then it was up with the brolly and out with the kettle.

After a hot day the sky was clear and the temperature set to fall once the light went from the sky. Before darkness had arrived the roach tail had been pinched. The silhouette of a tawny owl flew over the lake, bats and moths flitted around the brolly front, and I put my bunny suit on before it got chilly. It was ten o'clcok when something picked up the margin bait again. Another missed run. I'd barely sat down after recasting a fresh bait when the other rod was away. This time I connected with an obvious eel.

In the light from my headtorch it looked to be a chunky fish, but it wasn't pulling too hard. A broad head and wide mouth, fat behind the head but quite short and thinning towards the tail. My hopes of a three were fading. They faded completely once the eel was in the sling and weighed. The same weight as the last eel I caught. Those three pounders know how to avoid my baits. The rest of the night progressed in usual eel fishing style. Runs being missed every time I started to nod off. Most of them were coming to the bait out in open water. Which is something I've noticed both here and on the water I fished last summer. So much for eels scavenging in the margins.


The tawny owl flew back over the lake and perched in the tree behind me where it started hooting. Thankfully that didn't last too long. Daylight isn't arriving until almost six these mornings, and after a long lull in the runs another materialised as the sky began to lighten. I gave the eel baits another half hour then swapped over to 'carp' rigs - without expecting any action. There had been no signs of carp or tench before dark or during the night, and none as the sun rose. The night had remained still with a heavy mist rising off the water and only clearing completely by about eight. At least there hadn't been much of a moon, nor any signs of rats.

With more warmer days forecast this week, the nights warming too, I might have one more eel session before calling it a summer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

You never can tell

There wasn't much rain forecast for Thursday night, which seemed like a pleasant change, just some showers from 3.00 on Friday morning clearing to sunshine. There's around eight hours of darkness now giving plenty of time to be disturbed by run after run from those frustrating anguillas. That was the plane. How many times do I say that? Roughly as many times as things turn out completely differently.

Following the warm walk to my chosen swim, one closer to shallower and weedier water than last time, I took my time getting set up. With no rain around the rods got baited and cast out before the bivvy was erected. A perch head cast to open water and the tail section dropped over the marginal weed. I also stuck a third rod out for whatever might pick up a dumbell shaped wafter over some hemp and corn I's had in the freezer. The kettle had boiled when the line tightened on the sleeper rod and the bobbin held tight,. That was all. I pulled the bobbin back down and returned to my brew.

There are still flocks of swallows visiting the water as evening sets in, and that chiffchaff hanging around, but the swifts are long gone and I haven't seen a tern for ages. There's just one juvenille grebe following its parents around, despite being able to dive itself and the two late mallard ducklings are growing fast. Signs of fish were few and far between. Something that might have been a tench splashed a couple of times, and tiny fish dimpled the surface. Any signs of bubbling were concealed by the ripple from the strong westerly.

In readiness for the night I decided to recast all three rods before it was dark enough to need the headtorch. When I picked up the sleeper rod it felt like there might be something attached to the hook. Probably weed. Strange weed though. It started to pull back. At first I imagined it would be a small tench. Then I caught a glimpse of some scales and hoped for a big roach. Once in the net in the dim light I almost took it for a decent crucian. But something wasn't right. This must have been the fish that gave the indication. It must have got hooked and then weeded itself. Or maybe it thought it was a bream and just sat there pinned to the lead!

The sky was clear, the almost-full moon bright and the air temperature falling. I wasn't too confident but if those showers arrived things might improve with the cloud cover. They didn't. It wasn't cold, but it wasn't muggy either. I pulled my fleecy cover over me and got some sleep. Just two single bleeps, one to the far deadbait the other to the wafter, were the only times the alarms sounded. Despite the conditions you can usually count on eels keeping you awake with their dropped takes and aborted runs. Annoyingly unpredictable creatures.


The wind had eased a little during the night, and swung to the south. The sky clear by dawn. Around five thirty I was up and about swapping the eel rods over to fish fake corn and a pop-up close in over some more hemp, corn and pellets. The wafter rod got recast and the swim rebaited too.

It wasn't long before the temperature was rising with the sun which seems to move more quickly across the sky these days as autumn approaches. Low and bright that sun had forced me to dig out my sunglasses when the unexpected happened. A proper run to the wafter rod that nearly had it off the rests.

Everything was solid when I bent into the fish but constant pressure from the through action rod got something moving. It wasn't until I netted the ball of weed to see a pair of tench lips that I knew I'd caught something! One more of the lake's tiddler tincas. Somewhere in the region of a couple of pounds it was a short and stocky fish.

As the day continued to warm and the clouds disperse I had a repeat performance. This time the ball of weed contained a longer slimmer tench but still weighing about the same. I was all set for a few more of the little red-eyed beggars but they must have moved on because that was my lot. Once more I'm wondering what the hell to fish for before the pike call to me. probably another eel session or two then maybe some roach fishing. I really ought to drag myself back to the river.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lost my marbles

Despite being a 'hole in the ground' the Railway Pond it's becoming naturalised and is surprisingly peaceful and secluded. It's also alive with dragonflies. Or it was on warm, sunny days with little wind when I'd walked around it previously. Common darters, black-tailed skimmers, brown hawkers and the usual blue damsel selection were out in force. Yesterday being warm but overcast and windy the dragonflies were keeping a low profile. No doubt a bit of stalking would have found a few more than I saw, but this time I had completely lost the plot and was there to catch c*rp....


It must have been the challenge of trying to catch one of a handful of (possibly mythical) double figure fish out of a water that is stocked more like a breeding pond than a fishery that appealed to me. Or maybe I just wanted to see if the Delkims still worked!


Tench rods and rigs would be ideal, so that was how I set up. With the usual tench baits too. It took only minutes to realise that two grains of fake corn or a 10mm boilie weren't going to deter the ravening hordes of pasty carp - nor the buffet sausage roll sized ones.

Even stepping up the baits to a 14mm wafter thingy or two 10mm boilies didn't do much to stop the nibbles and runs from the pests. The only way I found to reduce the activity was to stop introducing any feed. No sooner did a handful of pellets hit the water than a rod top would start knocking. A bag of pellets on the hook wasn't much better. No. Hookbaits only was the way forward.

Eventually it paid off and I found myself attached to something I couldn't swing to hand, but not close to a double -  although I've seen pictures of similarly sized (but unweighed) carp labelled as such. At least it was a common. If all carp were commons I would be more inclined to fish for them. Mirrors are just plain ugly. I don't care how big they might be, or what anyone else says about them, they're ugly. All of them. They were bred to have few scales to make them easier to prepare for the pot. Best place for them if you ask me.


Four hours and twenty odd fish later I'd got the madness out of my system and made it back to the car just as the rain set in.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Losing my marbles

Having a freezer stocked with suitable eel baits makes it easier to decide what to fish for. The difficulty is picking a good night for it. The first session was a last minute effort fishing until midnight. Runs came quickly, and frequently, but if the bootlace that dropped off on the way in was anything to go by that was all that was playing. It was mildly entertaining, but the clear sky saw the air temperature drop sharply. I wasn't that disappointed to pack up.


I almost got the gear ready for an overnighter during the week. Getting as far as loading the barrow and pod into the car. But a rain shower put me off. I love being by the waterside at night when it's warm and dry, but not so much in the rain. All the more surprising that Saturday night saw me scanning the weather forecast and making sure I was in a swim before the heavy rain and thunder was due to arrive at eight.

If I hadn't had a walk around before getting the gear out of the car I'd have managed to get set up in the dry. As it was the darkening sky ensured that I broke my golden rule and set the bivvy up first. Just as well I did because before I had the rods put together the rain arrived, right on cue. And it sure did arrive. The thunder was rolling past slowly on the light breeze. Although it was obviously just a passing storm I really did question my sanity! I took cover and put on my waterproof jacket so I could get two deadbaits out as soon as the rain eased.


The car's thermometer had read 18.5 as I got to the lake. With just a t-shirt under the jacket I was sweating. The cloud cover would keep the temperature up and if the forecast was correct there'd be showers until threeish then it would stay dry and the morning would be hot and sunny.

The baits hadn't been out ten minutes when I missed a run. Bootlaces again? Probably. But encouraging. As darkness fell, early because of the cloud cover and because the nights are lengthening, the action increased. It was the usual story of dropped takes and missed runs, but during breaks in the rain I netted three eels. One only just more than a bootlace, one not quite a two pounder and the third scraping over that weight.It was a good job I had stocked up on baits because I was getting through them at quite a rate.


When I'd put the bivvy up the wind had been in the north west, when it swung to the south west it was still not blowing the rain inside as it remained light. When it swung to the east and picked up in strength enough to make waves lap noisily on the bank the rain was driving through the bivvy door. I had to drop it half way down to keep myself dry. I thought about repositioning the bivvy during a break in the rain, but knowing my luck that would have caused the wind to change direction again. Again the forecast proved right and the rain eventually blew over completely. It was still very warm. I only put the bunny suit on around three so I could lie on top of the bedchair cover ready for action. But by then I was knackered. every time I dozed off I'd get a run. When the alarms fell silent I suspected the baits had both been pinched, I left them alone and shut my eyes to try and get some sleep.

Daylight is creeping slowly now, around five the sky lightens. That was time for me to bring the  (baitless) eel rigs in and put out three tench/bream/carp baits. More for something to do instead of pack up and go home. As the need for a headtorch passed I spotted some fish bubbling and chucked one rig over to them. Again more in hope than expectation. The bunny suit was soon removed. By eight thirty the sweatshirt had come off too. It was one of the hottest mornings I've woken up to this summer by water.


A short wander found a group of fish bubbling merrily in a small area in the margins. I wound all the rods in and took the plastic corn baited one and a landing net to have a try for them. My success rate at this sort of fishing is nil. But it would pass an hour. What the fish were I have no idea. I think a couple of tench slapped their tails in the vicinity. Some of the bubbles looked tenchy too. I'll never know because I didn't get a take. I did get a close view of a buzzard and a kestrel. Both on the hunt. A late chiffchaff was chiffing and chaffing, eventually revealing itself in a willow. By the time the hour had stretched by fifty percent it was going to be a sweaty walk back to the car.So it proved. Not surprising as the thermometer was now reading 21.5.

If it hadn't been such a wet night, and I hadn't got so knackered, I'm sure I'd have fished a bit better, had more runs and probably landed a few more eels. I'd have done more recasting and rebaited when the baits had got mangled instead of chucking them back out again. At least I caught though. Which makes a change!

If there are enough baits in the freezer I'll get another eel session or two in over the next couple of weeks. What'll come after that is anybody's guess, because I have no ideas what to do between eel-time and pike-time in November beyond trying for roach if it's not too weedy.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Grim

I'm still doing my impression of a small flatfish and floundering round trying to settle in to some consistent fishing.Another dabble with the eels came to nought, other than the inevitable missed or dropped takes. I blame my putting out a third rod for 'whatever comes along'. It never pays off for me to try that tactic.

What I need to do is get focused and concentrate on one thing for a while. My latest 'dabble' was for bream. Ball in a load of corn-laced groundbait on a hot evening and fish fake corn and mini boilies over the top of it. A great plan. Until it unravelled when the clear sky gave way to mist so thick I could barely make out the far bank less than 100 yards away and the air temperature plummeted far enough to give me a cold nose as I lay under the fleecy bedchair cover. One short lift on the boilie bobbin just after break of day was all the action I had.


I saw a few shooting stars before the mist arrived. I wished on them, but they were only satellites... No, they weren't, but the Billy Bragg song got stuck in my head after I saw the first one.


In the morning that mist soon burned off into another of the few glorious summer days we've had this year putting black tailed skimmers on the wing. The dew on my brolly soon evaporated and I was able to pack up and get home in good time to slap some varnish on a couple of rods.

Heavy morning dew and darker evenings means the end of summer will sneak up on me. Better try to make more of the warm days and nights while I can. Originally my spring/summer fishing was mapped out with tench until they spawned (another dismal failure), then eels until September (just can't get started on the snakes) when I'd turn to bream before starting pike and roach fishing in late October or early November. I might have to get back on that track instead of switching the points and getting stuck in the sidings. Another bait catching session is called for. A well stocked freezer makes it easier to contemplate eel sessions when the mood takes me. And I think I'll drop the all-nighters too.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A change of direction

The light was starting to fade by the time I had my baits out at nine. Partly due to being a month past the longest day and partly due to the overcast sky. A piece of squid had been under-armed out on the left hand rod and a bunch of worms cast well out into Bleatmere for my first overnight eel session for a long long time on the other one. Recent summers seeing me on the way home well before first light after my eel sessions.

The next jobs were to get the bedchair and brolly sorted out so I could be on the rods quickly, then get the kettle on. Water out, teabag and sugar in the cup, milk to hand, stove screwed to the gas bottle and kettle at the ready. Bugger. I'd taken my big tackle box out of the rucksack. Which vital piece of equipment was missing?? The lighter...

I searched high and low hoping I'd have one stashed in one of the rucky's pockets, or in the tackle box I had with me. I considered shorting out a battery with some trace wire in the hope it would glow hot enough to light the gas, such was my desperation. Fear of an explosive catastrophe quashed that idea! Thankfully the overcast meant the night was warm and a little muggy, so drinking cold water or milk wouldn't be too unbearable. One thing the lack of a light did do was decide when I'd pack up in the morning - shortly after it was light enough to see what I was doing without my headtorch.

Right on cue the first run came shortly before ten. Had the sky been clearer I'm sure it would have come a bit later, particularly given the clear water. This run was dropped but signalled the start of sporadic action with short take, bleeps and twitches filling the gaps between full blooded runs that occurred almost hourly. As usual these runs were either missed, ended with a pinched bait or, in one instance, resulted in a fish on - that came off taking the bait with it. Every bit of action was to the squid. When I missed the one o'clock run I thought that would be my lot until the hour before sunrise. Sure enough when I nodded off I wasn't disturbed until twenty five to four, a hint of light in the sky.

To my amazement my strike was met with sold resistance and a writhing feeling coming up the braid and through the rod to my hand. I kept the pressure on and let the eel swim backwards against the well bent rod while I used my free hand to get my headtorch on and lit and the landing net into position. Then I cranked the fish in. As soon as it's head appeared I could see it was a reasonable fish. Maybe not a three, but getting there.


The single hook was easily removed from the bottom jaw and the eel slipped into the weigh sling, the scales proving me right in my prediction. Half a pound short. Everyone else I meet who fishes for eels or catches them by accident gets two pounders all the time, yet they don't come my way with the same regularity and I class them as worth photographing. I guess I'm easily pleased, and usually have a cup of tea to celebrate my small victory. I settled for milk and a Nutrigrain bar for a pre-breakfast snack this time.

Try as I might I couldn't get back to sleep. The sun was on its slow way up, not putting much brightness through the grey clouds. I'd call it quits around five. Or I would have done if the squid hadn't started to speed away again. It was back to striking at ghosts though. But tempting enough for me to give it another half hour, during which time the worm rod saw it's first attention. The couple of twitchy indications proved to be something removing the worms from the hook when I came to wind the rig in.

I hadn't been back home long when it started to rain. Only light rain, but it was the time I'd have been starting to pack up. Something good had come from leaving the lighter at home after all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Full Circle

For some unknown reason the members of The Pikers Pit forums voted for me to write the 100th article for The Pike Pool blog which features contributions from forum members.

I decided to write a  brief look back at my piking life which you can read here.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be!